So You Want a Successful Transition from the Military to Corporate America – What is Your Plan B?
As a recruiter for Cameron-Brooks, Inc., I travel to military bases worldwide to interview prospective candidates for our Development and Preparation Program©. I am often disappointed during interviews with junior military officers (JMOs) when I learn they have no “Plan B” for their career planning. Too often they tell me they entered a Service Academy or ROTC program with a sole goal to spend 30 years on active duty in the military. This “Plan A” leads some to choose undergraduate degrees they like, but may be irrelevant to any other career path if they ever leave the military. They serve our country proudly and with distinction totally focused on Plan A.
Then one day, because of any of a variety of reasons, they decide to leave active duty prior to their original goal. For some, this decision is made and the transition timing is set in order to avoid an upcoming military move or deployment. The officers make rapid plans to leave the military, but have done nothing to specifically prepare for their next career. This is a career-limiting mistake. With no preparation, these candidates have self-imposed a narrow scope of positions for which they qualify. Some even choose to wait until they are 2-3 months away from separation before doing anything to prepare. This poses significant challenges in a normal economy and can be disastrous during a recession.
So what can a junior military officer do to increase the chances of making a successful transition? I propose three things:
1. Always have a Plan B – Contingency planning is a critical and routine part of military operations. Most JMOs tell me they always have multiple backup plans for every military mission. They expect things to change. Do the same for career planning. Think about other possible careers if Plan A changes.
2. Prepare early – Consider several possible careers. Conduct research. Talk to others who chose that path after the military. Weigh this with long-range goals. Begin a professional reading program that will enhance your skills in the military while simultaneously preparing you for other careers. (Contact me and I will provide a comprehensive list of books.) Consider the free on-line education programs the military offers to enhance skills. If schedules allow, consider relevant graduate education.
3. Execute wisely – Submit a request to resign from active duty only after having established a solid plan and preparation program.
These actions alone may not ensure success in a career transition. There are certainly a lot of other factors to consider, but it certainly makes sense to take the same approach that has led to successful military missions: plan, prepare, and then execute.